Will Daniel Mengden Fully Breakout In 2018, Or Does Disappointment Loom?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There was a good amount of hype surrounding the A’s Daniel Mengden heading into the 2017 season, though injuries helped to derail his season overall. Finishing with a flourish has grabbed people’s attention once again, the question is if the upside is still there? Maybe he’s not a post hype sleeper, thanks to the finish, but would he even be worth that label? Let’s take a look, starting with the numbers:

43.0 IP
3 Wins
3.14 ERA
1.05 WHIP
29 Strikeouts (6.07 K/9)
9 Walks (1.88 BB/9)
39.2% Groundball Rate
.240 BABIP

The strikeouts in the Majors obviously weren’t impressive, though he was at 8.78 at Triple-A over 41.0 IP and owns a 9.0 K/9 over his minor league career. He also showed an ability to get swings and misses on his slider (20.00% Whiff%) and curveball (15.05% Whiff%), giving him a pair of wipe out options. When coupled with a fastball that averaged 92.53 mph, the upside is there to put up an 8.0ish K/9.

You couple that with solid control and there is going to be potential. The owner of a 2.7 BB/9 in the minors, he likely can’t replicate last year’s mark but it’s more than enough.

So far it sounds promising, but then we get the the fly ball rate. Last season in the Majors he posted a 39.2% groundball rate and a 0.83 GO/AO. He did post better marks in the minors, with a 1.13 mark in 2017 and a 1.20 over the course of his career. Those still aren’t spectacular marks, but they aren’t bad.

Especially pitching in Oakland, you would think that it wouldn’t have a negative impact on him too much. There would be the fear on the road, though that wasn’t the case last season (3 HR in 26.1 IP on the road). It’s something we will have to monitor, but it’s not a crippling situation.

There was a little bit of luck behind last year’s numbers as well, with his .240 BABIP and 79.2% strand rate. You put it all together and what exactly do you get?

A solid strikeout pitcher, though not a star…
Solid control…
Not quite enough groundballs…
A pitcher with a lot of luck…

There’s value and upside, but at the same time there’s the risk that his strong finish causes many to overvalue him heading into 2018. He looks more like a matchup play, as opposed to someone to slot into your rotation and let him roll. Keep that in mind before committing to him, and for those in keeper/dynasty leagues now may be the right time to try and sell high.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com, Baseball Reference

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